Nocturnal Animals- Movie Review


An allegory and a film within itself that explores a gloomy, subtle tale of romance, mystery and brutality, the meta-thriller movie starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal portrays and taps all aspects of social life. It also deeply relates to mentally destructive problems faced by individuals owing to past mistakes and fear, which opens wounds and remnants filled with nothing but plain regrets. Released in 2016, it is about a toxic tale of revenge and agony which revolves around Susan Morrow(played by Golden Globe winning actress Amy Adams), an art gallery owner, who without doubt is successful and lives a plush life with her husband Hutton Morrow(played by Armie Hammer), a neglectful husband as shown in the film.

As the movie progresses it is seen that Susan’s social life is bleak and she leads a passively chaotic marital life which seems to be falling apart. The true story is set in motion when Susan receives a package from an unknown source and when she examines it, she gets a paper cut which can be seen as a subtle regard of what follows. As she opens up the package she finds in it a manuscript of an unpublished novel from her ex-husband Edward Sheffield, a writer (prodigiously played by BAFTA winning and academy award nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal) titled “Nocturnal Animals”, and written inside “dedicated to Susan”. She pulls out a letter attached to the package addressed to her by Edward, suggesting that he sent it over for her to read it.


As Susan starts reading the novel she is struck by fragments of nostalgia from her past when she encountered Edward and their subsequent marriage. The novel and reality progress side by side relating to her psyche falling apart, which suggests how she abandoned Edward by not believing in him or his ability to write and pursue a career as a novelist.

The novel is about a man Tony Hastings (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who takes a trip through west Texas with his wife and daughter. While travelling through the road they encounter dangerous creepy men who force them off the road without any signal or any means of transport because of a flat tire. With no choices left and the aggressive behavior and harassment, Tony is forced to leave his wife and daughter and supposedly travel to another place in their car as falsely promised by the gang to sort out the issue. As one can predict, he is tricked and left stranded at an unknown place with nothing but fear and the indescribable thoughts of what could happen to his wife and daughter. He hides under a rock as soon as he hears another car stopping nearby and two out of the three men, including the guy who left him stranded, exit the car and shouts “Hey mister, your wife wants you!” Realizing it is a trap to lure him out of hiding he does not come out and the men leave.

The following morning at early dusk Tony comes out of hiding and walks on the desolate road until he can find a phone or a police station to report what happened.


Susan tears up reading the novel, recalling her memories with Edward and how the novel gives her a vivid sense of her past which can be comprehended by none other than herself. She even asks her young assistant, “Do you ever feel your life has turned into something you never intended?” A clear sign showing she is losing her sanity from reading the novel.

She finds herself slowly “losing it”. She calls up her daughter in college to check on her like any mother would, but Susan does it upon reading the part in the novel where Tony’s wife and daughter are taken. She also discovers that her husband, who claims to be on a business trip, is having an affair. A dark secret revealed is that Susan performs an abortion alongside Hutton who would turn out to be her husband, this happens during the time she was about to end things with poor Edward who has no knowledge of this whatsoever but finds Susan resting in the arms of Hutton. The devastated look of Edward is a strong image that Susan rethinks which severely affected him.


The story in the novel goes on where Tony finds his case assigned to a detective Andes who helps his case. Sadly, he finds the bodies of his wife and daughter who were raped and murdered which leaves Tony with nothing but anguish and pain. The detective and him set out to seek justice for what happened which takes about a year when they come across Ray Marcus, the leader of the gang responsible for everything. When the court lets him and another person who was responsible unpunished Andes and Tony decide to kill them in cold blood.

Detective Andes finishes off one guy when they try to escape. As Tony is inexperienced in holding and using a gun, Ray escapes and is later found by Tony who is all alone with him, with nothing but a gun and the pain of not saving his wife and daughter. Ray tries to confront him by talking about killing his wife and daughter and calling him “weak” which is a trigger word which only Susan would understand as she repeatedly called Edward so in the past during their marriage. Tony pulls the trigger at Ray twice who then strikes him in the head with a crowbar which he sneakily held behind. The next sequence depicts Tony waking up in daylight in the same cabin where he pulled the trigger and the body of Ray Marcus. Tony is left bleeding upon severe damage to his right eye. He exits the cabin with the revolver he used. With some bullets he shoots right up towards the sky and accidentally winds up shooting himself.


As the novel ends Susan reaches a state of complete chaos. She decides to meet Edward for dinner. She anxiously prepares herself to meet Edward, but he never shows up, leaving Susan more confused and emptier. Edward gets what he wants through this novel, a weapon for revenge.

Nocturnal animals is unlike any other thriller film which focuses on emotions, guilt, and most of all, regrets. Scars do not heal, but are left as a reminder and a profound truth, unsettling and inevitable.


Reviewed by Varoon, Second year, ECE Department

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